Chopin and Delacroix: a Romantic friendship

Frédéric Chopin and Eugène Delacroix were friends.
I discovered this, reading the fine book by Roberto Calasso “La Folie Baudelaire” [1], dedicated to the French symbolist poet and critic, and some artists of his time, related to him.
The two Romantic artists had some mutual acquaintances. Among them, George Sand, the mistress of Chopin. According to the latter, while Delacroix loved and knew by heart the music of the Polish pianist, the latter, looking at the paintings of the first, didn’t know what to say, not because he criticized them, but because he seems to be indifferent to Painting in general. Each picture subject seemed eccentric to him. And when Delacroix spoke  of the “mystery of the reflections” and applies it to music, he remained confused.
I think this can be explained not only by the timid character of Chopin, but by the fact that figurative artists tend to describe, through visual sensations, also expressions of other Arts. The musicians, however, handling a more impalpable material but in a more directly way, expressing emotions and feelings, without the need to make similarities.

In his journals, Delacroix describes a Saturday in April, spent with Chopin, a few months before the death of this. After lunch, the two made ​​a drive by cab in Paris, sipping chincona wine.

« During the day [Chopin] told me about Music and this has revived him. I asked him what to ordain the Logic in Music. He made me understand what are the harmony and counterpoint, in music as the fugue is pure logic, and be experienced in the fugue is to know the reason and every element of each concatenation in Music. I thought how I would be glad to instruct me in all this, that mediocre musicians don’t bear.
This awareness has given me an idea of the pleasure which the sages, if worthy of this name found in Science. The fact is that real Science is not what is commonly meant by this word, that’s a part of the knowledge that differs from Art.

No, the science so considered, which is evidence of a man such as Chopin, is the art itself

and then the Art is no longer believes that the common man, that’s a sort of inspiration that comes from somewhere, which proceeds at random, and it does not have nothing but the picturesque exteriority of things.

It’s the Reason itself adorned by the Genius,

but that follows a necessary journey, governed by higher laws ».[2]

So, who was called the poet of the piano and the most daring colour artist at the end of 1800, two authors became famous for the ability of their works to express feelings and passions, were both strongly interested in the technical issues of their respective arts, in an almost scientific way. This should make us realize how the romantic idea we have of the Romantic artists is not completely faithful to reality.
In the case of Chopin, we understand that by the diligence required in the performance of his compositions and by the great number of innovations he brought to the Music (from the sonatas to nocturnes, from waltzes to the mazurkas, until the invention of the instrumental ballade).
In the case of Delacroix, however, the technical interest can be traced, as well as observation of his work, very accurate in the composition, in the reading of his journals. The fact he has taken note of everything: his thoughts, accounts of his travels, the books he read, the colour palettes used for the paintings, how much money he spent every day, those who had invited him to lunch, for more than forty years, tells us how he was a meticulous man. Furthermore, his interest in optical effects obtained with the brush strokes, later became an inspiration for the Impressionists.
As Baudelaire wrote[3]:

”Delacroix was passionately in love with passion, but coldly determined to express passion as clearly as possible”.

left: E.Delacroix, Frédéric Chopin (1838), Musée du Louvre, Paris; right: E.Delacroix, Autoportrait au gilet vert (1837) Musée du Louvre, Paris

[1] Roberto Calasso, “La Folie Baudelaire”, Biblioteca Adelphi, Milano, 2008; pp. 155-157
[2] Eugène Delacroix, “Diario, 1804-1852”Giulio Einaudi Editore, Milano, 1954; pp.290-291
[3] Wellington, Hubert, The Journal of Eugène Delacroix, Cornell University Press, 1980; p. xiv
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About liviusnotes

Architect, Graphic Illustrator, Drawing Teacher, Gentleman.
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